“I cannot afford to not work.”
“They (GameStop Management) are encouraging associates to take advantage of unemployment.”
“The whole thing was a mess.”
“I’m literally being forced to choose between my livelihood or my life and the lives of the people around me.”
Times are bad and things are turning worse. At a time when companies are expected to take the best care of their employees, GameStop has surrounded itself in a never-ending chain of controversies. The company labeled itself an “essential business”, refused to pay quarantined staff and advised them to go against local laws to stay open.
The company’s full-time employees can apply for PTOs (Paid Time-Off) if they have it. The rest and otherwise, everyone is expected to apply for unemployment.
Update (9:39 am IST)
GameStop has announced all of its stores will remain closed, except for their “Delivery at the Door” service.
“We have already been told that when/if we are forced to close, GameStop will NOT be paying us during the shutdown,” a current GameStop employee from Ohio told Spiel Times. “Full-time employees (SLs & ASLs) will have the option of using PTO if they have it available, otherwise everyone will need to apply for unemployment. This is especially demoralizing, not to mention insulting, because we have received no communication about why this decision had been made or if any alternatives are being explored while we’re seeing many of our competitors (Hot Topic, Spencer’s) publicly committing to continue paying their employees during their shutdowns.”
Another current GameStop employee based in Pennsylvania, an assistant, said, “We have to use PTO or go with unemployment to get paid. GameStop won’t give us a single cent and in my state, Pennsylvania, it took all the way up to the governor to temporarily suspend GameStop’s business license for them to close up.”
GameStop promised its employees supply packages for sanitization and cleaning purposes. Every store was to receive such a package to keep the stores clean and sanitized. It’s more than important for retail businesses to be extra careful since there’s a lot of browsing before picking up the game. It has been a few weeks since the company promised the packages. Later, store managers were informed that all necessary supplies were back-ordered and that stores won’t receive their due packages until late March or early April.
To compensate that, the authorities asked its Store Leaders (SLs) to buy the essential supplies themselves, which would later be reimbursed. But it was already too late. The masses were already stocking up supplies as the spread was unavoidable. GameStop employees couldn’t find the essential supplies and had to manage with whatever bare minimum they could find.
Storekeepers were earlier advised to sanitize high touch surfaces. Recently, however, they’ve been asked to follow the procedure for all parts of their stores. They’re required to wash their hands in regular intervals, exercise social distancing and sanitize their stores multiple times a day.
The higher management instructed the storekeepers to use packaging tape, or something similar, to mark designated social distancing squares on the store’s sales floors to regulate social distancing among guests. Every store has been asked to instate a maximum occupancy limit. What started as a max of 10 people including associates had since dropped as low as 6 at some locations.
GameStop’s trade program has been severely affected as well. While you’d expect the company to shut it down immediately to minimize the exchange of potentially contaminated products, the action was taken a lot later.
“This didn’t happen until almost a week after our local competitors shut down their trade programs. That’s an extra week of exposing employees to potentially contaminated products without the means of properly cleaning them, and worse yet… selling those products to our guests.”
The biggest mistake GameStop made, was to call itself an “essential business” and forcing its employees to keep its stores open during the pandemic. Essential business, at this point in time, would be medical stores, groceries, and other supplies. Video games and entertainment systems can surely wait.
“We were told to print a ‘Letter to Law Enforcement’ that had the same explanation and a contact number for the corporate office. We were instructed to provide this letter to any law enforcement officer that might come to stores to try to force a shutdown and to contact our DL (District Leader).”
Of the immediate employees, Spiel Times talked to, the majority of them are still working while the rest from Pennsylvania is not. Their store was shut down as Governor Tom Wolf ordered non-life-sustaining businesses to shut down. According to my source, GameStop’s business license has been temporarily suspended.
“While I typically love my job, I’m noticing that my loyalties are shifting. Right now, my loyalties are to my team, my guests and the community that I’ve worked to build.”
One of the reasons employees are still going to work is their financial condition. GameStop has been struggling to turn revenue into profits already and shutting down hundreds of stores in times of a pandemic, surely seems a lot for its employees.
“I literally cannot afford to not work. We’ve all been told that choosing not to work would be considered an unexcused absence. Most employees don’t qualify for PTO and those who do are not being approved for it. If I were to quit or lose my job due to multiple unexcused absences then I would not be able to qualify for unemployment and with all the mass closures, there simply aren’t any other jobs to be had right now. If I hold out until stores in my state are eventually shut down, then at least I know I’ll be able to get unemployment and still be able to pay my mortgage. I’m literally being forced to choose between my livelihood or my life and the lives of the people around me.”
Another GameStop employee from Oregon said, “I am still going to work. I’m still working because if I didn’t, I would have to use my own accrued sick time to cover that time off. I can’t afford to not work right now.”
Sales and Crowd
“It’s been dramatically busier than normal,” said the source from Ohio. “As of Friday evening, my store is already projecting to exceed 170% to sales plan for this week alone.”
The Store Leaders are doing their best to keep the situations under control. This includes managing the staff, strictly following the occupancy limit and handling customers responsibly. The people, however, haven’t been responsible themselves.
“It’s been irresponsibly busy with an unbelievable amount of parents bringing their kids in to browse because they were bored at home and Mom/Dad wanted to let them out of the house for a while. My staff has been asking guests to keep the browsing to a minimum and to please touch as little as possible but the amount of potential contamination is completely impossible to keep up with, especially since we simply don’t have the supplies available to deal with it.”
At the early stage, recalls one source, the business was going at a normal pace. As soon as “non-essential” businesses started shutting down, however, transactions and profit started to skyrocket, especially with the two big anticipated games, Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Doom Eternal coming out.
“We had no less than at least 100 transactions, which, usually, is non-existent this time of year. The worse part was the busier it was getting in the stores the more my DL (District Leader) was on us about our numbers, trying to get every rewards card and every warranty we could get on games and consoles that we were selling.”
Starting Saturday, store hours are being reduced to 12 pm-8 pm every day,” said the source from Ohio. “Essentially, we’re losing 19 business hours. If you include the extra payroll hours for having double coverage on Fridays & Saturdays, that’s 21 hours that we should be cutting, right? Our weekly payroll is being reduced from 120 hours to 91 hours. That’s 29 payroll hours less than normal when we’re only losing 21 business hours. Those other 8 hours will have to be cut from midday coverage throughout the week when we need to be cleaning and dealing with the drastically increased foot traffic.”
How higher management is handling the situation
While the managers who were directly working with the stores, assistants, and workers were cooperative, the people above them were focused just on the profits.
“I think that the way that corporate management has handled this situation so far is irresponsible at best and despicable at worst,” said the source from Ohio. “The level of communication from them to the store level has been completely unacceptable. We’ve been fed half-truths, outright lies, and non-answers through this whole ordeal. While I’m glad that action is finally being taken, I think it’s a case of too little, too late. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that capitalizing on people’s panic and boredom is more important than the health and safety of not only their employees but of the general public overall.”
Authorities are panicking, the result of which, are the mistakes highlighted. The managers at higher levels aren’t the ones dealing directly with the customers nor are they in-charge of maintenance of these stores. It’s the workers who will have to bear the consequences of the authorities’ immature decisions.
“Once that’s no longer an option, they’ll leave us in the unemployment line while they count their millions.”
In order to generate profit, upper management defied the authorities to stay open, misled its employees about sending them cleaning supplies and took advantage of the unemployment quandary.
“The whole thing was a mess,” said the source from Pennsylvania. “In a time like this Gamestop proved that profits meant more to them than their own guests and employees do. It’s a real honest shame I’ve been with the company for many years and they don’t have the best track record for caring about guests or their lower employees but this was absolutely inexcusable. If I’m going, to be honest, this week was the hardest week imaginable both mentally and physically and even though I now get to be safe at home with my loved ones there are still stores all over who are still working and I just hope they know that us our employees voices are finally being heard and to keep your heads up and we will make it through this.”
Will your stores re-open once the situation is under control?
I’m not sure what will happen with stores re-opening. I definitely see more closures in the future because this pandemic is causing huge financial losses for everyone, not just GameStop. I’m hopeful that my store will survive but I just don’t know. When/if we do shut down, I’ll be dusting off my resume just in case but I typically love my job and still hope for the best.
Honestly, I believe the stores will re-open but it won’t be all of them. However depending on how long COVID-19 goes and how long we will be quarantined it honestly could bankrupt the company if every store in the US shuts down for a while.
Given the company’s current financial status and how hard they are trying to stay open during a global pandemic, I can guess that more than a few stores will never open their doors again after being shuttered.
Kotaku’s Jason Schreier has a thread of GameStop articles you can read next if you want to understand the depth of the events. This article wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the sources I talked to.
Everyone reading this, make sure your safety is your priority right now. Stay safe and happy gaming!